“Within our community, we are losing at both ends of the guns,” said Tina Chéry when she joined Jim Braude on Greater Boston, alongside the man who pleaded guilty in her son’s murder, for their first television interview together. “There are no winners here. We are both impacted, our families are impacted, and our communities are impacted.”
On Christmas Eve, 1993, Tina Chéry’s 15-year-old son, Louis, was walking to an anti-gang violence meeting when he was caught in the crossfire of a shootout and killed. Four years later, Charles Bogues pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Louis’ killing and ultimately served 16 years in prison.
Chéry founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, in honor of her son, and began an annual event called the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace to help others struggling with violence in their lives and communities. But she also took another extraordinary step—reaching out to the mother of the man who pleaded guilty in the death of her son. “I really wanted to know who this mother was,” said Chéry, “because it could have been my son on the other end of that.”
In time, she went on to form a relationship with Bogues as well, even visiting him in prison. “Before he came out [of prison], I wanted to meet him… I did not want him to come out and end up dead himself or in prison for killing someone else.”
“Part of me was a little bit afraid of what reaction I would get,” said Bogues, recalling the anticipation of his first conversation with Chéry. “Her graciousness to me… getting that opportunity to apologize for my actions and just the feeling of love that she extended to me… it felt like I finally got to do something I wanted to do a long time.”
“We are all impacted when violence happens. It's not just the individual,” said Chéry of her decision to meet with Bogues. “We pay our dues to society and that's what we call justice. That's man's justice for me. I feel that by extending my hand and my heart for forgiveness, that is God’s justice…. It is a part of my inner healing.”
Last year, Chéry and Bogues stood side by side at the 20th annual Mother’s Day Peace Walk in Boston to share their stories. “For us, this is transforming the way society responds to homicide," said Chéry. "How do we engage the families of those that are pulling the trigger? How do we make sure that they are connected?” she asked, adding that she is encouraged by the changes the city has made in how it treats homicide cases, including the new trauma response team and Governor Baker addressing the issue of city violence in his State of the Commonwealth.
Bogues has now been out of prison for three years and, in addition to his involvement with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, he works with the Massachusetts Community Outreach Initiative, talking to kids about his experiences and where they lead him—including Chéry’s forgiveness and how it has affected his life. “I know that I have a debt that I owe to the Chéry family and to society," Bogues said, "had she not reached out her hand to me, I don't think my thinking would have been different, but it wouldn't have been as urgent.”